April 29, 2015

Would You Read It Wednesday #172 - The Last Race (MG)

Hiya, folks!

How're things?

Here on Blueberry Hill, spring is finally really probably almost definitely thinking about coming!  We haven't had any snow for over three days, nor has the temperature gone below 20 at night.  This is progress, folks!

Also, the bear has been to visit.  He broke both the bird feeders out of the trees and carried one off into the woods.  I am not running a take-out service for bears!  Bird feeders are not cheap, and that bear owes me some money.  He does this EVERY YEAR!  (And I hear the wise-guy in the back saying, "If he does it every year, why don't you take the feeders down before he does?", and the answer to that, wise-guy, is uhhh....)

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the New England SCBWI Conference in Springfield, MA. It was my first time going, and boy do they run a great conference!  I recommend going next year if you get the chance!  I got to hear some inspiring speakers - Dan Santat, Kwame Alexander, and Jo Knowles, among others - and perhaps even more importantly I got to hang out with some old friends and meet a couple of hitherto online friends who I have now gotten to talk to IRL!  There will be no photographs, however, because I prefer that you all think of me as tall, willowy and breathtakingly beautiful :)

Also, they had really good brownies :)  Not that I'm suggesting that chocolate is the most important feature of a conference...  but, well, I'm just saying... :)

Speaking of chocolate, let's start the day off right! :)

Something Chocolate this way comes... (and thank you Kathy for sending it my way - you are a treasure! :))
Use Ice cream cones, dip the top in chocolate, add fruit and
add your favorite fruit dip to the middle!! So easy!!
Follow me i am always posting awesome stuff!
https://www.facebook.com/raylene.j.smith

I think I've taken chocolate to a whole new level of healthfulness today.  (You're welcome Julie R-Z :))

Okay, now, if everyone could get their fingers out of the dip, today's pitch comes to us from Randy, a writer/illustrator who lives in a treehouse overlooking Dawson Pond in Pontiac, MI.  He doesn't have a website at the moment, but has a presence on Facebook, is involved with the Michigan chapter of SCBWI, and belongs to a good crit group.

Here is his pitch:

Working Title: The Last Race
Age/Genre: MG (ages 9-14)
The Pitch: Twelve year old Ben races 1/4 midget car that his Dad built for him. Soon after his first race, his Mom dies of breast cancer. The story is about how he deals with the loss. Will his life ever be the same again? Why can't he talk to his Dad like before?  Will he ever race again? Find out how his maternal grandfather becomes a mentor to Ben.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Randy improve his pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in September so you've got a little time to polish up your pitches and send yours for your chance to be read by editor Erin Molta!

Randy is looking forward to your thoughts on his pitch!  I am looking forward to catching up on the PILES of work that have gathered while I've been revisiting colleges and attending conferences.  I say that as if I might actually ever catch up!  Ah, the power of optimism :)

Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone!!!


Reactions:

46 comments:

  1. Mike Allegra writerApril 29, 2015 at 9:18 AM

    Wait, I met you last June. I remember you as tall willowy and breathtakingly beautiful. Are you questioning my memory?

    ReplyDelete
  2. So glad you had a great time at the NESCBWI event! I'm so sad I couldn't go (but I have had to resort to begging on street corners for pennies to cover the NYC conference). :D

    The treat today makes me feel less guilty about drinking a bowl of dip to go with my 2 pieces of fruit!

    As for Randy's pitch, yes, I would read it. Sounds like a heart-wrenching tale. I would make it a bit less dry though (so take out the "This story is about.." line). Also don't use so many questions. Some people say not to put in questions at all. I think one or two is fine but not that many. Good luck, Randy!

    ReplyDelete
  3. So yes, I would read it - the topic is right on for middle grade and I particularly like that it has a tie-in to a different sport/competition that kids could explore. (not just baseball/football ). If you would take a look at Matt Christopher's web page, he has some excellent examples of sporty pitches that build a lot of excitement for his books.

    So just maybe a restructure something more like:
    12 year old Ben can't bear to drive the midget car his father built for him .After his mother's death Ben decides this race will be his first and last loop around the track. When his grandfather ... does... Ben ... Will he race again?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh, the NESCBWI event I don't ever go to because I live too far away! Sounds like it was wonderful and rewarding. And you are tall and willowy and breathtakingly beautiful. Thanks for the healthy chocolate. As for Randy's pitch, it's a Maybe for me. Not the concept, but the pitch presentation is too dry. Arlene Graziano's advice is terrific. I think it will be a wonderful book. Looking forward to it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I plan to go to NESCBWI next year, Susanna, and we can eat chocolate together! Yes, I think the concept for the MG is really good and I love intergenerational stuff. Take out the questions, turn them around and give us a bit of info to pique our interest. Need to know if the midget car theme figures throughout the story. If so, they some work play in the pitch using race terms. Good luck. Middle grade is hot, everybody wants one right now.

    ReplyDelete
  6. OK, Susanna, if NESCBWI has brownies, I'm going! I really like this idea for MG novel - intergenerational stuff is so needed in our kidlit. I agree with Kathy - turn the questions into statements. I love the car race, but I want to know: did he win that first race? or come in? And a bit more about how close he and his dad were before his mom died and everything fell apart like a junky car.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I can't guarantee they'll have the same brownies next year, Sue, but fingers crossed! And also, there's the keynote speakers and workshops and critiques and everything... :) Thanks so much for your helpful comments for Randy!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh, yay, Kathy! I will look forward to that!!! Thanks so much for your helpful thoughts for Randy!

    ReplyDelete
  9. You know, a visit to the east coast might be very refreshing, Linda... :) And it's so kind of you to participate in my "tall, willowy and breathtakingly beautiful" fantasy :) Thanks so much for your helpful comments for Randy!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks so much for your very helpful comments and suggestions for Randy, Arlene!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Golly it would have been fun if you were there, Teresa! Elaine and Victoria and I would have saved you a seat! We could have shared a car and a room and you would have only had to beg for airfare! Have some more "fruit" to cheer yourself up for missing it :) And thanks so much for your helpful comments and suggestions for Randy!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks, Kirsten :) And thanks so much for your helpful comments and suggestions for Randy!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thank you so much for sharing your reaction to Randy's pitch, Kristin. I know he will find your comments helpful! :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Your memory... no. Your perceptions... maybe :) You can check again this June... when I am still likely to be 5' 2" which doesn't usually qualify as "tall" :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. I love conference season-everyone's creative juices are getting stoked.
    I'm iffy about reading based on this pitch. But I have a feeling the book might be good, so work on the pitch, Randy! What does the midget car have to do with mom's death? Is it how he copes, because the pitch makes it sound like it's his grandmother who solves the problem/helps him. If it isn't how he copes then maybe something like "Set in the world of midget car racing, 12 year old MC has to figure out how to cope with his mother's death in order to X (win the race?) I wanted to know what the stakes are (more than just general mental health). Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Randy, you've gotten some great advice below - and I agree with just about every bit. The concept sounds fabulous - very needed - I would work on making it more active, with fewer questions. Show, don't tell. More like a back cover blurb.

    And Susanna, you ARE tall (compared to some children ;) )and beautiful. Wish I were closer to NY (but ONLY for the conference, mind you - quite happy living here in Michigan!).

    ReplyDelete
  17. Love the healthful chocolate goodies! But I don't think this would convince my son to eat the fruit.


    I agree with other's comments about making the pitch more active and making sure the opening ties in with the solution. It always helps to think in circles, just don't run in them. :D Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  18. This is great advice. So often we hear of younger women dying and I've seen it with hospice so Having an interest that he really enjoyed will help him overcome the loss.Obviously this is something he can also share with his grandfather who has lost a daughter. It is sad for them both but grandfather's life experience will helpthe boy sooner than father might so it's a good relationship. I think a book like this is valuable and it could end up on a really positive note.
    Good luck with it. I'd read it too.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Yes, I would read it, assuming I'm alone in the house with a box of tissues. I like the first two lines. And I don't usually encourage questions, but "will he ever race again?" works for me. Being specific and enticing in the third and last sentences will help this pitch convey your book idea. Give a few specic examples of what goes wrong in the middle. Something like, "Ben tries X, but his dad does Y. Ben does A, but B happens." Try Sub It Club's website for examples of great pitches that worked and other resources to help you make your pitch the strongest it can be. Oh, and double check your grammar in the first sentence. Is there an article missing? It's great to see vulnerable male protagonists!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hi. The pitch is good, and I like the title. The plot sounds potentially over complicated for a picture book. I'd just caution you to make sure you have a picture book and not a chapter book. As a breast cancer survivor myself, I like the idea of a boy-oriented book that deals with cancer and loss.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I'm so sorry about your bird feeders, my dear tall, willowy and lovely Susanna. But no worries...bears always pay up.
    Randy, your book tackles such a good conflict: how a boy deals with his mother's death. But while it's good to leave people wanting more, I'd add specifics about Ben and how he is dealing--or not--to make us invest emotionally in Ben first: Every time Ben talks to his father, he thinks of his mother. And every time his dad talks about racing, he [does this, or feels that].

    ReplyDelete
  22. Sounds like a wonderful conference! And not least because of the chocolate :)

    I would definitely read Randy's book! I think a MG book about loss is needed. I agree with the other comments about taking out the questions in the pitch. Good luck with your story!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I appreciate all of the great feedback. Boys want to read about a boy who races cars. They don't want to read about a boy grieving over the loss of a mother. So you could say I've tricked them. I want them to see that it's ok to be able to deal with both. I'm also including drawings inside that Ben does about his car. That should help the boys like the story even more. I'm also designing the cover which features his race car wrapping around front to back of the book, with Ben standing behind it on the back. It's very masculine looking, and the boys won't be embarrassed to be seen with the book in their hands. (And it easily could become a poster).
    Also, it's the grandfather (Ben's mother's father, thus maternal grandfather) who becomes Ben's mentor. Who explains to Ben how both the mom and the dad loved Ben, but they both have different ways of expressing their love. That turns out to be a huge point for understanding his father better, and leads to a reconciliation in the end. BTW, Ben places second in his first race to last year's champion.
    In the last race, neither one wins. You'll have to wait for the story to find out what happens.
    Thank you all for the valuable input. I'm very grateful.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thanks for the heads-up on Matt Christopher, Arlene. I'll be sure to check him out. I appreciate you like the different sport than the norm. Grandpa comes to the last race because he's never seen Ben race. He also helps Ben with a little advice on his love interest.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Yikes to the bear, there's a story right there! Hannah took one look at the fruit cups and wants them for her birthday, great idea. I like the pitch but I think it needs to bring the dad in a bit more. Why wouldn't he want to keep racing after his mum died?

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thanks Kristen. I'll look for Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT, and I'll look for the traditional pitch formats you suggest. Thanks a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  27. He didn't know if he wanted to race because he was so distraught at losing his mother. He was heartbroken.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Good morning, Susanna! Thank you so much for posting my pitch yesterday. The responses were great, a couple of them I'm still thinking about. Always good to have another point of view. Why, I'll bet the bear just needed the birdfeeder back in his cubbyhole in the woods, so he could think about my pitch in peace and quiet.
    Again, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  29. This_Kid_Reviews_Books_ErikApril 30, 2015 at 8:20 AM

    How did you know I was the wise guy in the back? ;)
    *deep breath* Okay. BEFORE I go run for the hills, I should probably take some chocolate provisions, and say what I think about the pitch.
    I like the story idea in the pitch and I'd read it (BTW my little sister races) but I didn't like the question format of the pitch - maybe just make statements - Ben finds his life completely upside-down - just my opinion - hope it helps!

    ReplyDelete
  30. I'm sure the drawing would hook my young reader. Great idea!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Thanks, Joanne.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thanks, Kristin!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Thanks for the kind words, Jane.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Thanks for the good suggestions, Teresa!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Thanks, Linda. I'm working on it. I agree about Arlene's advice.

    ReplyDelete
  36. The racing is a theme in the story, Kathy. So thanks for the suggestion of working that into the pitch.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Thanks for the input. I kind of answered above in my reply to Joanne.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Good idea about making it more active. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  39. The car has little to do with the mom directly and her death, but it's vehicle (excuse the pun) for telling the story, and keeping the boys interested.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Thanks for the suggestion of keeping it more active, Jill.

    ReplyDelete
  41. It's not a picture book, Heather. It's a mid-grade novel. Sorry to hear that you had to deal with being a cancer survivor. If you're up to it, I would like to know your feelings/thoughts on experiencing that.
    flyinr2001@yahoo.com
    Thanks, Randy

    ReplyDelete
  42. Good suggestions, Stacy. Thank you. I'll keep that in mind in my revisions.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Thanks for the kind words, Ariel. That seems to be a consensus: Minimal, or no questions.

    ReplyDelete
  44. It does help, Kid. That seems to be the consensus No words, or minimal.

    Does your little sister like the racing?

    ReplyDelete
  45. This_Kid_Reviews_Books_ErikMay 4, 2015 at 8:06 AM

    Thank you Mr. Bulla! I'm glad I could help out!
    Josie, my sister, loves racing. Admittedly, she's not the BEST, but she's still VERY good! :D

    ReplyDelete
  46. Hi Erik! So grand to hear that Josie loves racing. How old is she? Would she be interested in giving me her thoughts on racing? What it's like for her? What she likes about it? Why she does it? There are a coupe of girl racers in my story, and one plays a key role in the outcome of the final race. Josie's input would be extremely valuable to me in shaping that character's role.
    Randy

    ReplyDelete

I love to hear from you and try to respond to every comment. Please share your thoughts!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...